How Your Spirituality and Buddhist Refuge Can Impact Your Health — a Buddhist Approach to Healthy Faith

Numerous medical research studies support the concept that faith and spirituality are “good for your health.” Although many mistake one for the other — and they have some things in common — faith and spirituality are quite different. They both contain the idea of developing a relationship with a higher understanding or being —  in the case of Buddhism, a higher understanding embodied in the Dharma teachings. The significant difference between them is in practice — and especially in the notion of religious faith versus informed spiritual practice. Both spirituality and faith are proven to contribute to good health.

By John Peterson

[Bio below]

NOTE: Always seek the advice of your health advisors on topics involving health.

Religion deals with the organization and a set of community-based beliefs, while spirituality is individualistic and has to do with personal (rather than institutional) faith — and what they believe. With spirituality, a person connects to something or someone bigger than themselves — in Buddhism, Buddha Nature and the Dharma teachings — and can look within to illuminate their life and where they fit into the world. So, it is the path to understanding and interpreting the meaning of life, starting with the Eightfold Path, as taught by Buddha. [See Eightfold Path feature>>]

 

Buddha Weekly Meditation senior Buddhism

Several research studies have indicated significant health benefits to people who practice meditation or are active in spiritual groups.

 

One thing that people leave out, probably out of ignorance, when discussing spiritual faith is the impact that it can have on our health. [See our previous feature on the researched health benefits of spirituality, and Healing Meditation and Prayers, do they work according to research?>>]

Buddhism, as a faith, can have a tremendous benefit on your health. The Buddhist teachings, the Dharma,   and Buddhist mediation techniques have proven health benefits. [Research on Meditation benefits.>>]  Buddhism emphasizes training principles and for individuals and personal responsibility. In Dharma, although we are supported by Buddha, Dharma and Sanga (the Three Jewels) individuals still walk the practice path in their own way, with the freedom to make any decisions that they want.

The compassionate spirituality of Buddhism has many positive effects on their mental health, for example. [See this feature on the research on Cognitive benefits from Buddhist practice>>] Buddhism’s basic practices are good for the body and the mind and can positively influence a person’s emotional well-being and mental health. Here are some of the benefits of Buddhist practice:

 

Buddha Weekly Practice Mindfulnes Daily Buddhism

Practice Mindfulness Daily

 

Mindfulness

This encourages self-reflection and meditation in individuals. By keeping our mind in the present moment, it helps reduce stress, increase concentration, and develop meaningful progress in our spiritual path. Mindfulness helps us mentally connect to other people, art, nature, and the Universe. Mindfulness is also proven to enhance the practitioner’s expression in different forms such as poetry, art, performance art, and practice.

Buddha Weekly Meditation sunset nature Buddhism

Ultimately, Buddhist practice is undertaken as an individual path.

Individuality

Buddhism’s practice enhances individuality in practitioners.  It helps the individual improve on themselves, and their sense of empowerment, by choosing what the practice of their faith looks like for them. They are also able to focus personal growth and realizations, in the step-by-step path to Englightenment. Buddhism embraces all beings irrespective of social status or religious affiliation.

Although it is the path of the individual, ultimately, Buddhism emphasizes compassion and Metta (love) as the equal to Wisdom. Buddhist focus on love, unity, acceptance, peace, have proven health benefits. [For example, see this feature on the benefits of Metta (loving-kindness) meditation.]

 

Buddha Weekly Buddha Nature Video Zasep Tulku Rinpoche Buddhism

Buddha Nature is a core concept in Mahayana Buddhism, that indicates all sentient beings, from earthworms to humans, have the potential to become Buddha. This also relates to concepts such as Shunyata, Oneness with all.

 

Oneness with All

One of the key focuses of all Buddhist beliefs is the concept of Oneness and Buddha Nature — or the view that all beings have inherent Buddha Nature. As a result of this widely held understanding Buddhists feel at One with their surroundings — the world, the universe and all beings — which is very good for an individual’s mental health. Their sense of belonging to this world is renewed, and they become more aware and appreciative of the interaction with their immediate physical environment.

The practice of Buddhism is both faith and spirituality. It fosters individual growth, but there’s also a feeling of belonging to a community that the practitioners feel. In Buddhism, one of the initial practices is Refuge — Taking Refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, or in the Teacher (Buddha), the Teachings (Dharma) and the Spiritual Community (Sangha.) Taking Refuge is quite different from blind faith. [For a feature on Taking Refuge, see>>]

Apart from the mental health benefits of these Buddhist concepts, certain specific practices (found in Dharma teachings) also have positive effects on the physical health and wellness of the practitioners. Some of these practices are:

 

Buddha Weekly Eat healthy Buddhism

A healthy diet is important to health and stress reduction. Reducing caffeine also helps.

 

Diet

Many Buddhists are vegans because of the 1st precept (not to take a life of a sentient being), followed on by their respect for all sentient beings. There are also many non-vegetarian Buddhists who never-the-less have a healthy attitude to animal products, for example, no waste, compassionate use, and so on. There are numerous benefits to both body and our environment from vegan or, reduced consumption of meat diets.

vegetarian 960

Fasting

If an individual’s health allows it, some Buddhist practices include fasting for one day, whether on full moon days or the new moon. Fasting is known to have a lot of benefits to human health.

Attitude to medicine

Generally, you would hardly find a Buddhist that has problems with taking helpful medications. While the 5th precept cautions against intoxicating drugs and drink, there are many Dharma texts that discuss healthy drugs, including, for example, various texts on the Medicine Buddha. To be clear, knowing the side effects of medications before taking them is a good practice in healthcare delivery.

The idea behind the 5th precept is to ensure that the individuals are not moved to carry out harmful acts under any influence or intoxication. Clarity of mind is essential in this case. That is why they are careful about drugs that have intoxicating side effects. However, if the medication is helpful, reduces suffering, and aids the healing process, there is certainly no prohibition.

 

Buddha Weekly Buddha Teaching the Monks Sutta Sutra Buddhism

Buddha teaching.

 

Conclusion

Buddhism’s practice has numerous benefits to the mental, physical, and emotional health of individuals. The teachings of Buddha encourage spirituality and individuality, which aids a person’s growth in many ways. The Buddhist combination of Compassion and Wisdom is a healthy one.

 

Buddha Weekly HEalth and meditation dreamstime xxl 80315865 Buddhism

Buddha Weekly feature looks at the links between good health and Buddhist practice.

 

Standard Health Disclaimer

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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John Peterson

Author | Buddha Weekly

John Peterson is a journalist with 4 years' experience working in London magazine “Shop&buy”. He is a professional mini-tennis player and he has written a novel “His heart”. He is also a college paper writer for an online research paper writing service. Often times he also finds himself writing for a popular essay writing service. You can find him on Facebook.

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